Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thoughts on Josef Jungmann

It's been some time since I've given any time to the work of Josef Jungmann. Jungmann, as any person interested in the liturgy should know, was a titan of the later era of the liturgical movement. Jungmann's reputation preceeded him in his lifetime. His legacy, by contrast, is a bit more complicated. Among liturgical historians, Jungmann's The Mass of the Roman Rite is well revered, although it seems the number of historians who utilize the work, be it for research of course instruction, are becoming increasingly small. Among contemporary liturgical scholars concerned with the scientific understanding of the liturgy, Jungmann's work is utilized less frequently. Still less so among those who are concerned with practical liturgics. Lastly, the wave of reactionary liturgiology largely considers Jungmann irrelevant.

Yesterday I read Jungmann's The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer for the first time in many years. The experience brought Jungmann's legacy into focus. Jungmann typifies the scientific investigation of the liturgy, the direction in which the liturgical movement largely moved in the mid twentieth century. Jungmann avoids any speculation on the metaphysics of the liturgy, the communion of the human being and God in liturgical prayer and action, the journey of the soul to God in the liturgy or any number of "arcane" topics that have surrounded the liturgy, at one point or another, in both the East and West. Jungmann, in this book, is largely textual, focusing upon various manuscripts of a selection of liturgical traditions. For its time, it was a revolutionary approach. When Jungmann discusses Christ role as the subject in the petition contained in the Preface of the Apostles in the "Tridentine" Roman Missal (circa 1926), he highlights how this preface breaks from the normal Roman custom of addressing the Father. This may seem hardly the item of significant note, however, if we consider that at the time of publication this preface had been said numerous times and, so far as we know, was hardly noticed as a peculiarity, then we can begin to appreciate Jungmann's work. In The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer Jungmann does not so much develop liturgical thought or theory, but rather he focuses one's intellectual attention upon elements in the text that are plainly visible but hardly noticed.

Contemporary liturgics in the Roman Catholic church has moved in an interesting direction since Jungmann's passing. The scientific study of the liturgy continues, though, one must note, it is approaching ever increasing irrelevance. Scholarly monographs are published on various academic presses and betwixt the pages of academic journals. The scientific study of the liturgy is of crucial importance to editing liturgical manuscripts. This endeavor has lost some of its past luster as the great liturgical manuscripts have been edited. Scholarly efforts are having to focus upon more "local" traditions, manuscripts produced by local monastic communities and are substantially based upon the main manuscript families. Meanwhile, practical liturgics, devoted to fostering a deeper understanding of contemporary liturgies, and reactionary liturgics, that seeks retrieve liturgical forms or prayers lost during the twentieth century and occasionally the medieval period, have arisen in the last decade to become the two dominant pillars in contemporary liturgics. Both disciplines seek to address areas of inquiry that were neglected by the liturgical movement during the shift to scientific study of the liturgy. The scientific study of the liturgy overlooked the experiential component of liturgical prayer; it treated the liturgy as something mechanical and often proposed reforms based predominately on intellectual inquiry and less upon process of religious experience in a liturgical context, let alone appeal to the great monastic traditions surrounding liturgical observance. In some respects, one can argue that the scientific approach to the liturgy, while retrieving much valuable data and elucidating the conscious or unconscious principles that were behind the development of the Roman liturgy, failed to account for what exactly makes human beings religious. This delicate quality was taken as a given, without much realization that religious belief and the quality that leads to religious experience are fragile things. The scientific study of the liturgy could tell us much about the liturgical text as such, but it could not get hold of the experience produced by the liturgy in the combination of text, consciousness and ritual execution.

The place of Jungmann in history, much like the later portion of the liturgical movement, is, in my estimation, in doubt. The thrust of liturgical interest is moving away from the scientific and more towards the experiential, even among restorationist minded groups. What reference will be made to Jungmann, or any writer in the liturgical movement, in another generation is uncertain.